Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Product Review: Kapoosh Knife Block PLUS Cooking Tips for Actual Beginners!


I come to you today with a post that is just a bit different from what I normally share here: a cooking post! This year, I finally have my own kitchen, so I've made it my goal to learn to cook before I graduate and become a Real Adult! Although Undergraduate Style blog is primarily a style blog, it's oriented towards college-age and young adult readers, and I know that lots of people my age struggle with learning to cook, so I thought it would be helpful to share a peek into this part of my life and share what I've learned so far! I am often frustrated by "beginner" tips that assume basic skills that I don't have, so these are literally beginner tips for someone who might have never stepped foot in the kitchen, most of which I learned the hard way! I would also like to thank Kapoosh for making this post possible by sending me an ultra-cool knife block to review, which I will share more about at the end! Without further ado, check out my Cooking Tips for Actual Beginners!

The recipe I made for this post was Basil Feta Chicken from the food blog Diethood. I also made spaghetti squash on the side, but didn't get any photos of that because I devoured it too soon--sorry!


There are a few things I like to do before I start cooking. The first is to spend a few minutes reading over the recipe(s) I'm using so I know exactly what I'm in for. If I don't do this, I will inevitably miss a step or realize that this recipe is going to take an hour longer than I thought because the dough has to rise TWICE?!? (this freakout brought to you by a true story.) I then save the recipe to my trusty iPad to refer to while cooking!

Another step is to set out all my ingredients! Not only does this prevent a situation where I realize I don't have something I need for the recipe (a true disaster) but it also reminds me to check that I have enough of what I need. If I realize I'm almost out of an ingredient and won't have enough to make the recipe, I can figure out a substitute with a cool head (instead of in the middle of cooking) or make a last minute run to the grocery store if it's irreplaceable! These are the ingredients I needed to make my Basil Feta Chicken:

Mise En Place

"Mise en place" is a term I learned from Anne Burrell on the Food Network. The phrase is French for "putting in place," and in the world of cooking, it means having all of your ingredients measured out and ready before you ever start cooking. Mise en place is something that I am definitely still working on--it's just so easy to start cooking and try to just throw things in as I go! But when I don't have good mise en place, it's likely that I will mess up when I'm frantically trying to measure things out as I go.

A few tips for maintaining good mise en place:

  • A set of little bowls for individual ingredients are a great investment if you have the money and space for them!
  • Keep in mind the order in which ingredients are added. Don't throw all the ingredients for something in a bowl together if they get added at different times during cooking! If they are all supposed to go in at the same time, though, go for it! That's what I did for the sauce in the blue bowl pictured below. 

Check out my mise en place set up: A cutting board with my onions/garlic, my sauce ingredients in the blue bowl, butter and garlic in the pink bowl for the spaghetti squash (not pictured because it was already roasting in the oven), and my chicken, all pounded and salted and peppered and whatnot!

Knife Skills

Ahhh, knife skills. Another thing I am always having to work on and improve. That work is worth it, though, because good knife skills are not only one of the most important safety elements of food preparation, but also a huge indicator of an accomplished home cook. Knife skills are especially complicated because there are different ways to cut pretty much everything. For example, for the basil pictured below, I rolled up all the leaves together and carefully cut them into long ribbons. Below that photo is an example of how to curve your fingers underneath when chopping something to avoid cutting yourself!

Because I'm certainly no expert, the way I like to learn better knife skills is to watch Youtube videos of how to cut different vegetables! So helpful. Especially with those pesky onions.

My Kapoosh Knife Block

I thought the knife skills section would be a rather appropriate lead-in to telling you about the knife block that made this post possible! Kapoosh was kind enough to send me their Urban Knife Block to review on the blog. I have had my knife block for a little over a week and am simply enamored!

As you can quite obviously tell from the photo below, the knife block is super cute. I chose the cherry red color, but there are four other colors to choose from, so if you have your life together enough to have a color scheme for your kitchen, never fear! It also has a slim design that fits nicely in my tiny kitchen. There are a couple other shapes on the website if the long rectangle isn't right for your kitchen layout!

Despite the cool modern design, my favorite part is the fact that it's a slotless knife block. That means the block is actually made up of a bunch of tiny little rods that form around the knife's blade. I certainly do not have the money to buy an entire set of knives, so it would be pointless for me to buy a slotted knife block, because how would I know it would fit the knives I do own? I am slowly working to add good knives to my kitchen, and I am glad to know that this knife block can (quite literally) mold to fit my growing collection! This makes this product perfect for any college kids or beginning cooks who are working with a small or mismatched set of knives.

The Final Product

At last, the moment we've all been waiting for: photos of the finished chicken! Below is a photo before and after I added the sauce because I was SO happy with how the chicken turned out. I was a serial chicken-burner until I learned the lifechanging strategy of covering the chicken while it cooks! This allows the heat to distribute around the chicken more evenly and keep the hot oil from smoking and burning the bottom. I think the chicken has a really nice browned char to it and it was quite delicious! 

The sauce, however, was a little more trouble for me; I couldn't get the feta to melt using the double boiler method the recipe suggested, so the sauce turned out pretty chunky and not really a sauce at all. After soliciting advice from my more culinarily talented friends, I think next time I'll throw the sauce in a food processor after the ingredients have been warmed through to help get that feta to disintegrate! Despite its consistency issues, the sauce tasted simply divine. 

If you'd like to follow along with my culinary adventures, check out the hashtag #AlexLearnsToCook on Instagram, where I share my latest cooking successes on my personal Instagram! (Disclaimer: I am not the only Alex using this hashtag, but I definitely use it the most, so I'm claiming it, okay? No judgment.)

Disclosure: I received this product from Kapoosh in exchange for an honest review. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own!

Linking up with: Katherine's CornerHome of Malones

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